Services Oppose Abolishing Tricare, Unifying Medical Systems

The leaders of the military health care system Thursday reiterated their opposition to the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s recommendations to substitute a choice of private insurance plans for Tricare and to unify the three service departments’ medical systems. In a truncated hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson and the three surgeon generals argued that offering multiple private insurance plans would add unnecessary complexity for service members and their families. “It’s not that we consider the families as incapable” of dealing with the choices, “it just would add to the complexity,” Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger said. The military still would be responsible for providing pharmacies, medical care for Active Duty service members and for families overseas, Woodson said. “We have no idea how that would be done. … We think there are easier approaches to reforming Tricare to make it exceptional.” The officials did support a committee member’s proposal to give the services more flexibility to adjust to changes in medical care. In resisting unification of the three distinct medical services, the officials said they increasingly are operating jointly in training, in hospitals and clinics, and on deployments. (Prepared joint testimony)